Published:  02:08 AM, 22 May 2018

Are female workers treated as sex slaves in Saudia Arabia?

Bangladeshi female migrant workers who travel Saudi Arabia for jobs face different kinds of problems, such as fraudulence, irregular wages, physical and mental torture and linguistic barriers.

Nomita Halder, Secretary of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, told The Asian Age, "Some problems are being created in Bangladesh. Besides, Bangladeshi female workers are the victims of exploitation by their Saudi employers."

As per rules, when a Saudi employer seeks a housemaid through a recruiting agency in his country, he pays necessary money to that agency. Then that agency contacts with a recruiting agency in Bangladesh. In this case, Bangladeshi workers don't need to pay money.

But the reality is that money is being realized at every stage from the workers. The recruiting agencies sell workers in exchange of money.

Victims allege that from Tk 10,000 to one lakh is being realized from a worker. According to the agreement, the recruiting agency is liable to bear the responsibility of a worker for the first three months of employment, which is creating a problem in case of the employer-worker relationship, said Dr Nomita Halder. She said, when it is two years in the case of male workers, a mere three months for female workers isn't justified.

Those who work for migrant workers, said there are many weaknesses in the agreement under which workers were sent abroad in 2015. For this reason, female workers are paying heavily. Money has to be sent to bring some of them back home. Many female Bangladeshi workers are still staying in 'safe homes' in Riyadh and Jeddah. They are waiting to return home.

Besides, a good number of female workers illegally go to the Middle-East countries for jobs. When they fall in problem, it becomes difficult for the government to help them, said the officials. A woman who has returned home after working as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia told The Asian Age that she didn't get salaries after working for 11 months. When she wanted to return home, her employer filed a case against the agency demanding that it pay back his money.

Most of the female workers who have come back to Bangladesh alleged that they had to work in joint families. As a result, the workload on them was huge. A female domestic worker said that she had to work in a family with 45 members.

Female domestic workers usually undergo physical and mental torture at the hands of their employers. Female workers who have come back home still bear the brunt of torture. But Dr Nomita Halder claimed that 80 percent female workers in Saudi Arabia are in a safe condition, while the remaining 20 percent are in problem.

Dr Halder said, "When the question was raised regarding the violence against Bangladeshi domestic workers at a meeting with Saudi officials, they said 45 percent female workers return home breaching the terms of the agreement within three months of their employment."

"It has been learnt through talking to many female workers who stay in safe homes in Saudi Arabia that allegations of physical tortures are not true all the time. Many of them have made false allegations of physical abuse."

Dr Halder further said the female workers going to Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh don't know Arabic at all. Consequently, a serious problem is created in case of communicating with employers.

With a view to removing this linguistic barrier, a process is going on to appoint instructors of Arabic in 70 training centers, she informed.

"We want to send female workers to Middle East countries who are educated up to Class V, can converse in Arabic, aged 22 to 45 years and have proper training for working in Saudi families."

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